Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen, a Harvard University-educated man worth up to $358 million and the owner of five homes, has diagnosed his party with an "elitist" problem.
Bredesen earned his fortune in the pharmaceutical and health care sectors before entering politics. He is now running for U.S. Senate. He told NPR he hopes his run could offer a blueprint for Democrats on how to recover from becoming "too elitist and too distant from the concerns of the very down to Earth people that have always been the base of the party."
With reported assets between $88.9 million and $358 million, Bredesen, if elected, would become one of the richest members of Congress. Public records show he is the owner of five homes—two homes in Nashville, two lakefront properties in upstate New York, and a five-bedroom home in Jackson, Wyoming.
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Bredesen has utilized private air travel as he campaigns across Tennessee to show people just how "down to Earth" he can be. He disclosed $16,874 worth of travel on Netjets in February and $16,797 on Aura Jets in May and June, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Bredesen also appears to travel in style when he's grounded, disclosing $4,700 in campaign payments to EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, which carries luxury vehicles such as a Rolls-Royce Ghost (starting price $308,300) in its fleet.
Bredesen admitted in a Friday interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press he considers himself more "sophisticated" than the voters he's trying to reach, but that he does feel plugged in to their "world."
"I feel like I've got one foot firmly planted in that world," Bredesen said, in reference to groups who feel they are being looked down on by elites. "On the other hand, I have a foot planted in a more sophisticated world, for lack of a better word. I went to an Ivy League college, I've been a mayor, a governor, and CEO of a public company."
"Part of what I'm trying to do at this point in my life is bring those worlds together," he said.
Bredesen's campaign did not respond to a request for an interview with the candidate.
Bredesen insists a main part of his Senate campaign is his stated ability to reach across the aisle to supporters of Republican President Donald Trump. Republicans, however, have highlighted divisive comments by top communications officials on Bredesen's campaign to argue the reach across the aisle isn't genuine.